A Cinderella Story (PG)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/08/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Watchable comedy, thanks to the performances, though the film wastes a few opportunities to turn this into something special.

When Hilary Duff’s previous film, The Lizzie Maguire Movie, came out last year, she was practically unknown over here, save for the children’s TV show (still being shown on BBC1) on which the movie was based.

As such, it was impossible to tell who would emerge victorious between her and her nearest competition, Amanda Bynes (whose was out at the same time). A year later, however, and Bynes is nowhere to be seen, whereas Duff has released singles and won praise after her supporting role in Cheaper By The Dozen.

It now looks like her only real competition for the title of Teen Movie Princess comes from Lindsay Lohan, who is busy remaking Disney’s entire back catalogue.

Modern Day Revisiting Of Fairy Tale

Perhaps it’s somewhat appropriate then, that Duff’s new movie is A Cinderella Story, a modern day version of, well, the Cinderella story. Duff plays Samantha Montgomery, a young girl whose father is killed during an earthquake, forcing her to live with her wicked step-mother (Jennifer Coolidge) and her two ugly daughters (Madeline Zima and Andrea Avery). Treated like a servant by her family, Sam turns to – yes! - the internet and a cyber-romance with someone she met online.

Sam arranges to meet her cyber-prince charming at her high school fancy dress ball, but panics when she discovers that he is actually her high school’s ultra-popular football star Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray). They have a wonderful night but she flees the scene before revealing her identity, leaving behind not a glass slipper but the modern-day equivalent, her mobile phone. Will she have the courage to declare herself? Well, what do you think?

Some Nice Ideas

There are some nice ideas here and the central gimmick just about works, despite uncomfortable echoes of You’ve Got Mail. However, there are some woeful missed opportunities: for example, there’s a scene at the ball where Sam’s wacky best friend Carter (Dan Byrd), dressed as Zorro, squares up to one of Ames’ jock buddies, who’s dressed as one of the Three Musketeers, but there’s no pretend swordfight scene, just a pathetic visual sword-snapping gag. Similarly, Coolidge has been much funnier elsewhere and only a few of the jokes really hit home.

That said; Duff is an extremely appealing lead and makes a great role model; it’s interesting to note that the script contains references to her healthy appetite. She also has a certain amount of chemistry with Murray, although his character’s poetry-reading “sensitive side” is occasionally laughable. There’s also good support from Regina King (as Duff’s best friend / mother-figure substitute) and Byrd, although most of the laughs go to Zima and Avery, who make the most out of their roles as the ugly sisters.

In short, A Cinderella Story is an entirely watchable modern-day fairy-tale that should be a hit with Duff’s legion of pre-teen fans, even if it doesn’t quite manage to be the film it could have been.

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Content updated: 18/11/2017 15:27

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